Intelligent decisionmaking, changing consumer demands, and business transformation: three cornerstones of AI transformation in business. Following our showcase from day 1 of the AI Summit NY, here’s our 3 key thought leadership takeaways from some of the best speeches of the day.

1. It’s not about artificial intelligence, but intelligent decisionmaking

One key theme that emerged again and again throughout the Summit was the need AI to augment organizational capability, reflecting a wider shift in approaches to AI as businesses look to incorporate the technology into their wider strategy. This was initially highlighted by Jeff McMillan, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, and remained a common theme within the thought leadership showcased throughout the day.

“AI only has value when you apply it to domains in the organization. In the end, these tools are there to help us make better decisions. All our research at Morgan Stanley has shown that the best outcomes arise from combining well-trained algorithms – that can evaluate millions of options and suggest relevant recommendations – with experienced and empathic individuals who work to find the best solution. Organizations must be purposeful, empowered, and continually improving with AI.” (Full interview)

“Our objective is not ‘artificial intelligence’ – it’s an intelligent organization. Human engagement is still the single best driver for client satisfaction.” – Jeff McMillan, MS Wealth Management

 “AI is really about finding insights in data, arguing that end-users need to adapt these fancy algorithms to the business needs that they have. “It’s not about techniques. It’s really about decisions. We need to get past perceptual signals (as in machine vision) and move on to real enterprise applications. However, AI as it exists today is handicapped by data. Enterprises clearly don’t have the necessary labelled data. This, he explained, causes problems for explainability. ” Explainability is key in enterprises – you cannot make certain decisions and not tell me why.” – Ruchir Puri, Chief Architect at IBM Watson
“The whole promise of AI is that you can make better decisions, faster. Once a year, you might make a critical business decision. With AI, you might be able to make those monthly or weekly, but to do that, you need the right data – all the hardware manufacturers are focused on faster computing, but the real problem is better data. Business leaders don’t care about the hardware – they care about getting to a decision faster.” – Brian Womack, Senior Director of Complementary Learning Products at Intel Saffron 

2. AI is necessary for businesses to meet rapidly changing consumer expectations through personalization

One of the greatest strengths of AI is the ability to turn the challenge of big data into personalized, front-facing, actionable insights. In a challenging, mobile-first business landscape, consumer expectations are rapidly changing. Customers today expect seamless, fast, convenient service – AI is necessary to achieve that.

“Curious. Demanding. Impatient. These tendencies are only increasing – they’re the new human nature. So, as our devices become more powerful and widespread, they need to become more human. Get this right, and people will think of your brand in a whole new way. We’re already seeing this new empowered consumer set with completely different behaviours and intent. Get ready for the age of assistance, because it’s here now. Build your audience from intent up. Rethink brand experiences to match today’s pace and mindset. Close the loop. You have the ability – right now – to be ahead of the curve.” – Michael Burke, Head of Industry, Google.

“In our day and age, users expect ever more personalized experiences while still yearning to discover new and contrasting views in real time, and this is exactly where AI fits in as both a personalization and discovery enabler at scale. As the world becomes ever more interconnected, we’ll likely move towards a state where what we view today as the ‘web’ generalizes to encompass all ‘connections’, be they between people, devices or services. Experiences will become ever more personalized and intelligently curated to individual needs in real time, with the connections themselves fading into the background of the devices and intelligent agents users actually interact with.” – Luis Bitencourt-Emilio, Principal Director, Reddit Intelligence Group, Reddit

3. AI business transformation is self-reinforcing

Business is indisputably being transformed by business, but many of the speakers were keen to separate hype from the reality of implementing AI successfully. Nestle’s keynote made it clear that AI is not a silver bullet for business transformation – it should be framed within a greater strategic shift within the organization. From skills to data and resources, getting a strong ROI out of AI is a real challenge. AI can transform businesses, but business must transform to make that AI a true success.

“Not every idea, not every concept, will truly take some shape or form in your company and become reality. So how do we define the future? How do we go from being a brand or product company, to being an AI company? Why do we struggle with change? 
“One reason is the fact that companies are built to be execution machines. Existing customers and the focus on loyalty is what creates a culture of not being open to ideas – but customer loyalty is vastly overestimated. Furthermore, when you come up with an idea driven by AI or anything else, the likely ROI is small. Finally, your internal resources simply might not keep up. When a task is complex within an organization – if there is a skill set gap – the larger the skill set gap and the complexity of the task, the less productive the company will be.” 
“It’s tough, but what can we do about it? Think big, start small, and focus on finishing. It’s all about the team – make sure they have the skills and resources necessary to innovate, and get out of their way.”Sid Raisoni, Head of Analytics, Nestlé Waters.
Read our full recap of thought leadership at AI Summit NY here